Is there any travel lover who’s not obsessed with HGTV’s House Hunters International? The beautiful locations, the idea of dropping everything and moving abroad — and the lucky crew who get to follow the adventurous couples around the world and document their international house hunts! So when Yahoo Travel met Samantha Stubin, a 32-year-old producer for the show, we were dying to ask her some questions about her amazing gig.
Yahoo Travel: Current position?
Samantha Stubin: TV Producer/Director for House Hunters International. I’ve been working at this level for about four years at this level, 10 years in the industry.
Stubin hard at work with the HHI crew in Iceland. (Photo: Samantha Stubin)
YT: What’s a typical day in that role?
SS: A typical shoot day on location starts very early with some coffee, then shooting a series of scenes at the most beautiful and exotic locations I can find, followed by a yummy lunch break with my crew, and more filming. Hopefully we wrap over an epic sunset time-lapse, then celebrate our hard work over dinner with some local wine. Maybe FaceTime with my dog if I’m lucky.
YT: How many countries have you been to?
SS: Probably around 60. Twenty this year. It’s been a good year.
YT: Do you get to spend time in the locations you film?
Stubin seeing Tanzania through a camera lens (Photo: Samantha Stubin)
SS: I see the places, but mostly through a camera lens, unless I can tie it to some vacation time. But I usually work with local crews, which is sort of like having a personal tour guide. And even when the cameras are rolling, I’m filming the things I think millions of viewers should see so it’s still creative and fun!
YT: What was your career path to this job?
SS: I double-majored in film and Español at the University of Miami and interned for some telenovelas that filmed in the area. After graduation I started working as a production assistant (P.A.) in New York on movies and TV shows. I worked through nights, weekends, and winters outside. It was brutal, but more or less production boot camp, and I learned a ton. I started to travel around the country going from show to show, moving up slowly but surely.
Almost two years ago, I hit a rough patch and couldn’t find work. It was flat-out scary and I was about to call it quits and find a new career path, when I got a call to work on a series profiling the world’s best beaches for the travel channel. On my first day, the show runner gave me a map and told to pick 10 countries I wanted to go to. A few weeks later, I arrived in Africa for the first time and pinched myself. The hard work and tough times had finally paid off, and it was bigger and better than I could’ve imagined. Shortly after that series ended, I landed a full time gig on HGTV’s House Hunters International, where I cast, produce, and direct episodes all around the globe.
YT: Any funny stories from filming?
Stubin in the Maldives (Photo: Samantha Stubin)
SS: Well there was that time I was sent to the Maldives to profile a private island couple’s resort. I had just flown in from Dubai, lost my luggage, and hadn’t showered. (TMI?!) I went straight to the shoot where the general manager of the resort informed me that he didn’t have any women to appear on camera. So a local male model and I spent the next two days pretending we were a couple, snorkeling with star fish, and getting massages in the world’s first underwater spa. Tough day at the office! Some other highlights from that summer include swimming with stingrays in the Caribbean and shark diving in South Africa.
YT: What’s the most memorable place work has taken you so far?
SS: Safari in Tanzania. The markets of Marrakesh. Bathing an elephant in India. Staying in a cave hotel in Cappodoccia.
YT: What advice do you have for others who want to a job that lets them travel for a living?
SS: Don’t give up! You’re probably not going to find your dream job right out the gate. So in whichever field it is that you’re interested in, take any gigs you can to develop the skill sets needed to land that dream job.
YT: What’s the best thing about the job and about traveling for a living?
Some new friends in Laos (Photo: Samantha Stubin)
SS: Exploring unique cultures and meeting interesting people, then documenting these beautiful images to share with the world.
SS: Long flights. Airline food. And time away from my loved ones.
YT: Do you collect anything or have any rituals when you travel?
SS: I have a sand collection from close to 100 different places all around the world! I also always make an effort to learn the local music wherever I am. For example, Asgeir is a new musician I discovered while driving through the Westfjords of Iceland. I’m obsessed!
YT: Based on your experience with House Hunters International, what have you learned about moving abroad?
SS: All the hunters have one thing in common: They’re brave, that’s for sure. I’ve also learned that it definitely takes patience. Every culture is different and moves at its own pace. And I find that a lot of people moving abroad from the states are looking for a slower, more laid-back lifestyle. Somewhere with less noise, traffic, and wifi.
YT: Any tips for how to survive traveling for a living?
Florence, where Stubin filmed an episode. (Photo: Samantha Stubin)
SS: Being easy-going. There’s no doubt that flights will be delayed, baggage lost, weather, and other elements you can’t control. But the show must go on and you gotta roll with the punches.
Bucket list spots you haven’t been yet? New Zealand. Myanmar. Cuba… everywhere!
YT: When you travel outside of work for personal enjoyment, what do you do?
Adventure in South Africa. (Photo: Samantha Stubin)
SS: I’m constantly looking for balance and that is generally the theme of my trips. I find that it’s also a crucial component to understanding a culture. So rather than just hitting the capital cities, I try to venture out into the more rural parts and explore the different landscapes and everything in between.
I’m also a big adrenaline junkie and love a good zip line or volcano boarding session. But really food is the absolute most crucial for me, and a cooking lesson is a must. (I still have burn marks from making couscous in Morocco.) When people ask me about my “vacations,” I usually respond with “It’s not a vacation, it’s traveling.” Ask anyone who’s joined me on these adventures — they usually need a vacation afterwards!
YT: Travel must-haves?
SS: A headlamp, a good book, and a go pro! Oh and travel-size everything because who wants to waste time checking luggage when they can be somewhere awesome?!
YT: Best travel tips?
SS: I’m a coffee lover, so I find that drinking the local coffee is a great way to get a taste of the culture AND keep yourself awake on a different time zone! And on long flights, I always read Lonely Planet so that when I step off the plane I know a little about where I am and maybe how to say hello/goodbye in the local language. It goes a long way as a tourist.
YT: What’s your favorite place on earth?
SS: Believe it or not it’s right here in New York, Fire Island! I’ve spent every year of my life there, and it’s no cars and no shoes way of life is my summertime escape.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
SS: [I want] to run my own travel shows. And get more involved with volunteering and teaching underprivileged kids about photography and videography. I’m constantly amazed at how many children in these poor villages have never even seen a photograph of themselves or their loved ones.